Skip to main content

tv   Myrtilla Miners School for African American Girls  CSPAN  September 16, 2017 5:10pm-6:01pm EDT

5:10 pm
the gift, and the senator is claiming it is because the doctor is his friend. >> sunday on q&a, former law professor talks about the ongoing trial of senator bob menendez, and other prominent corruption cases. sunday night at 8:00 on c-span's q&a. >> in the early 1850's a white minernamed myrtilla opened a school for african-american girls, the first of its kind. until anfrequently arson attack cars the school to burn down in 1860. next, kimberly bender talks about the school's impact and legacy. this is about 45 minutes. >> how many of you have been
5:11 pm
here before. you all know the history of the historic home of d.c.'s most successful brewer. we are not going to be talking about him today. this is a special story for us about myrtilla miner. myrtilla miner opened a school .ere 1853 myrtilla miner who was a white woman from new york moved down here and built the first african-american teaching school for free african-americans in washington, d.c. this is before the civil war. it was also called the minor school for colored girls -- the miner school for colored girls. she established the school in 1851 with $100 in her pocket. most people thought it cannot be you bere and worse that
5:12 pm
arrested or killed when she told them what she wanted to do. although she rallied support of abolitionists and others that sympathized with her cause, when she came here it was her own independent project. she mightght that have been some kind of tool of the abolition movement, really she came on her own at the start. schoolst established the by the force of her own well, something which is unimaginable given the cultural forces that a poster at the time. this is a woman who came by to a city's you never visited before where slavery was still legal and she wanted to start a school for free african-american women in the decade leading up to the civil war. although the initial experiment
5:13 pm
only lasted 10 years, her project funded a succession of colleges that were eventually absorbed into the university of the district of columbia. i am not the first person to know about this, but i discovered it, it was special to me in the way i have discovered booky mentor gave me a which is the field guide to washington, d.c., that was litton -- that was written during the wpa. within the first minutes of looking at it, i saw this description. i read a description of this land. this is something i've never heard of before. i looked into it a little bit deeper and discovered that there are articles published about this and historians have looked into it and written articles, there is not been extensive research, and i could not find someone else to talk about it.
5:14 pm
i decided to do research myself to read i used the articles that i could find. there was something from the 1920's written by a woman about myrtilla, i historian from the 40's who also tried to -- who started to write a manuscript about her and was going to try to get a book published. i think he may have passed away before it was completed. he managed to get a hold of her personal papers. those papers are in the library of congress. he did the bulk of the work at that time to get her story to remain with us today. i use all of that stuff to come up with my presentation today. delve in deeper than most of the things i could find, or put pieces together. this is a new thing that has come to us. these things may change over time as we study them more.
5:15 pm
i also want to let you know that i will be reading wrecked quotes from some of these articles from her biography that was written by her friend about 10 years after she died, so the language is going to vary about how comfortable we would be using it today. i want to put that out there before we start. before i talk about what the and what kind of challenges it faced, let's talk about myrtilla herself and why would she come here to undertake this task? was born in 1815 in brookfield, new york. she was one of 10 or 12 children, the daughter of seth and eleanor miner. her father had moved to brookfield from eastern connecticut in 1800 with family and never neighbors -- with
5:16 pm
family and neighbors. this is brookfield. right in the middle of the state. at this time, brookfield was part of the west. iner family lived the life of pioneers. this is buffalo and 1813, you can see what it looked like. and upbringing in the wilderness did a lot to shape myrtilla. i'm going to read you a passage from the obituary of her brother, which could have easily described her, especially with what we know she accomplished. the young lad met the difficulties of pioneer life with self-reliant courage, acquiring a practice -- a practical education and at the home fireside under the teachings of his religious parents the principles of a
5:17 pm
broad humanitarianism which controlled his actions. the environments of his youth tended to form a well-balanced character. the hardships and dangers stimulating his innate energy, independence, energy and frugality. " a primary school education by walking down the hill from her family's home and voraciously read books from the village library that happened to be in her family's phone. -- in her family's home. she worked at her extended family's farm in order to pay for her education grade she was often sidelined by an unnamed spinal illness or deformity which gave her more time to read books. to school despite the fact that she was in constant pain. this was a pain she shook -- it's -- she suffered her entire life. her father was a founder of the
5:18 pm
baptist church society in brookfield. i am fairly certain this is the same church. during this time. , upstate new york was known as period,uring this time upstate new york was known as the burned over district due to its frequent religious revivals. had been so evangelized as to have no fuel or unconverted population left over to earn great -- left over to burn. i'm going to read you this passage from one of the articles from a historian who wrote one of the few things i could find. " like the other settlers moving into this area, myrtilla's family carried with them a moral intensity. no one living in the burned over district could remain untouched by the revivals. the upstate region glowed with
5:19 pm
high expectations. -- evangelists recruited thousands, while religious eccentrics attracted smaller numbers but shocked regular churchman's with their novel doctrines and unusual whether because of these forces or in spite of them, myrtilla held feminist doctrines early on. she wrote the governor of new york to ask how a woman could do anything more in life than what she was going to have offered to her. how could she get more of an education. his reply was fake and unsatisfactory. she refused to celebrate independence day hurt whole life life and wrote protest letters every year because women were left out of the declaration of independence. she came to believe that women's suffrage was tied to the ending of slavery. she never married because it
5:20 pm
would not allow her to do the things she wanted to do in life. when myrtilla was 15 or 16 around 1830 one, she began to teach in a small school near her home. in 1841 she traded work for tuition and board at the young lady's domestic seminary in clinton, new york. was one of the many she attended or worked with that influenced her philosophy about slavery and teaching african-american students. the principle of the school had admitted three african-american and stated i chose through regard and treat them as peoples and not colored peoples. she started teaching at the clover street seminary in rochester, new york. she was exposed to the subject of slavery more here than she had in the past and made a
5:21 pm
decision that if she could she would go down south and witness slavery firsthand. later she taught in providence, rhode island, where she became acquainted with abolitionist and those who supported their cause. she went south, accepting a position at the newton female institute in mississippi, a school for wealthy planters daughters. i'm going to read you a passage from the historian who had started to write a book about her. neverrted this book but finished it. he talks about her time in mississippi. byhe became much disturbed observing slavery and asked her principal if she might teach colored children in her spare hours. he informed her that it would violate the laws of the state, but if she wished to ameliorate
5:22 pm
the conditions of colored people she should work with such people in her own area of the country where northern philanthropists had work to do to elevate their own free colored people. in writing a letter to harriet teacher stowe, she wrote that she was silent on what she believed to be true. the principal the mississippi school had worked out his own steam about how he thought he was going to emancipate the slaves he was working with. while myrtilla was initially excited about that idea, she realized it was an unrealistic plan and a strange land. i can going into more detail later if you want. sheas around this time that set her mind to creating a school to teach free african-american people how to teach themselves. when i first learned about this story i thought she must be a
5:23 pm
tool of the abolitionists at the time, that she must have been taken and sent down here with a particular purpose and with an agenda. found out that although she had sympathetic friends, she was doing this 100% on her own at the start. she was talking to people about it and trying to gain support and money at the beginning, but when she pulled the trigger it was all on her own. we can see some of why this happened. many important people discouraged her. douglass recalled his meeting with myrtilla in a letter he wrote that was published as part of the biography that her friend wrote in later years. her, when shebout had dropped in unannounced to his newspaper office in rochester, new york.
5:24 pm
this is around how old he would have been when they met. this is a contemporary photo. a slender, wireless, pale, not overly healthy but singularly animated figure was before me and startled me with the announcement that she was on her way to the city of washington to establish a school for the education of colored girls. my paper out once and gave attention to what she said. i looked to see if the lady was in earnest and meant what she said. the doubt in my mind was transient. i saw that the flower -- the fire of a real enthusiasm was in her eyes. were of mingled joy and sadness. here, i thought, is another enterprise wild and dangerous. destined only to bring failure and suffering.
5:25 pm
doubt for the school came from his own attempts that had failed, to teach sunday school as well as other similar projects that he noted in this letter. -- in 1831, a of quaker opened a private girls academy in canterbury, connecticut. it became one of the state's best schools and was intended to be for the town. in 1832, she transformed it into a school for african-american girls. despite protests and violence from the white townspeople, she continued until the legislature law, making33 black it illegal to run a school teaching african-american students from a state other than connecticut. an angry mob attacked the school, which she closed to keep
5:26 pm
her students safe. he was thinking of that and other examples when he told her this is not going to work for you. she ignored him and continued on anyway. did try that myrtilla to raise money or donations of books, but had such a hard time that it may have caused her to give up further its solicitations until she had proven herself. her friend, mrs. thomas, a society of friends asked her to wait until she had more money. mrs. thomas gave her $100 and that is the money that she brought to washington dc in 1851 to open her school. now we are here. washington. let's stop and talk about washington, d.c., at the time and what myrtilla would have encountered. in another letter to harriet beecher stowe,
5:27 pm
myrtilla lays out why sheep washington, d.c. picked washington, d.c. learned that washington, d.c., contained the greatest proportion of on top colored people. untaughttaught -- of colored people. whichare other reasons led to a speedy decision to locate here. also for want of proper instructions females were andted to an subsistence subjected to temptations to evil. , inrding to the u.s. census
5:28 pm
1850 the district of columbia there were 51,687 people total. 10,059 of these people were african-americans and 3687 were enslaved. compromise of 1850 had just abolish the slave trade in washington, d.c., although it kept slavery legal and also enacted the fugitive slave act which allowed the capture and return of slaves in the united states. there were already established schools for free african-americans in d.c. , the section of washington cut off from the rest of the city by the cap now that links the eastern branch with the potomac below the white house, which is around the southwest now, a one-time
5:29 pm
servant in john quincy adams' household conducted a school for girls. instructed pupils at the free catholic colored school. , john union seminary cook's pupils divided into a male and female department studied multiple subjects including math and anatomy. , children. at most a sound elementary education. public sentiment was against the school's existence. washington was considered slave territory as far as public sentiment toward the practice was concerned. on december 3, 1850 one, around the site of this photo, myrtilla
5:30 pm
opened her school for the first time in washington. it was a 14 square-foot room and a wood framed house. she started with six people. by the end of the month that increase to 15 people. that number held steady for the next two years as they move locations three times because of threats and harassment. during that time she also struggled. in a letter to her friend she and complained about her daily work which included teaching and advocating for her students and raising money for a permanent location for her school. out this 42seeking people you should see me trying them and the schoolhouse.
5:31 pm
you should see all of the letters are read to that purpose. all of the people i am obliged to call upon and find a color girl on talk and be properly brought up to you should see the many times i walk a mile to accomplish this. as i've teaching five days a week and doing my sewing. i am very thin and pale. i have to walk one mile to school each day. it is true i write home and the i will3:00 p.m. because have no dinner until after school which makes me think. i could not secure a good boarding place near my school. to move twice to get out of the way and are now permitting us to have been a very small plot. many ladies refused to take me to court because i would not teach colored girls. she spent allme of her off time writing letters and traveling to raise money and
5:32 pm
support for her school. this time though unlike the first time in which she was telling people about her projects she has it successful product. not just some crazy idea everyone thought would work. that project she is able to help put out because of the relationships she has built over the couple of years building the school has strong actual money and support. she is able to buy land to have a permanent place for her school. square is thed top order of new hampshire. maybe up to the circle. time wasis land at the farmland. square had not been subdivided yet.
5:33 pm
the plot ordered 20th on the bottom and the 19 to 20 on either side. this is her description of the land when she saw it. ground full square of comprised of three acres a little out of town and a thriving neighborhood convenient to market. it has a small frame house and barn. later she would describe it as having many trees, raspberries, rhubarb ins, abundance. the place being once cultivated for fruits and vegetables with many remnants left. raced $4000 of the price of the land from many members including abolitionists and the abolitionist.
5:34 pm
this is probably a picture of the time when she knew harriet beecher so. harriet gave her a quarter of the proceeds. abolitionistfamous wrote a famous publication and many african-american residents were also among the contributors. publishers and friends contributed to school books and a small library. many who could afford it paid one dollar and $.50 per month. when she first moved to the new exposed she felt pretty to external threats and she was right to because is fitted during the early days people threw stones at the buildings and were a menace to the property. to intimidate would-be harassers she practiced shooting a pistol in the front lawn. she felt a lot safer when she built a high fence and the
5:35 pm
nightlife started coming to her aid. one student described her later as one of the bravest women i have ever known. she stood bravely at the window with the revolver and said she would shoot the first man who came to the door. they would leave at once. woke her up and help to put it out. out there shooting guns by her side was a formerly enslaved woman who is on the right. that is her sister on the left next to marry. emily was pretty famous. in april of 1848 when she was only 15 years old emily was one of 70 enslaved people who attempted to escape north. the ship was forced to anchor because of bad weather and was
5:36 pm
stationed near port lookout. werelaves in the ship brought back to washington dc greeted by a angry mob. what i'm about to read you describe what happened. emily and her sister were taken to new orleans, a market well-known for trading young girls for prostitution. they were returned to alexandria virginia when a yellow fever epidemic corrupted. her father continued his tireless campaign to see his daughters. i'm with letters from supporters he went to the new york offices of the end of slavery society where he presented his situation with harriet beecher. they raise the necessary funds to purchase their freedom. emily and her sister were liberated on november 4. ther updating their freedom brooklyn church continue to contribute money so they could attend school. they other came -- overcame
5:37 pm
oppression of slavery speaking as a abolitionist speaking alongside frederick douglass. they traveled to the state of new york to participate in anti-slavery rallies. both sisters attended the protest conventions during the summer of 1850 to demonstrate against the fugitive slave act later passed by congress. the convention led by frederick douglass declared all slaves to be prisoner of war and towards unsurmountable insurrection. after her sister died when she was 18 years old she moved to washington dc and enrolled in the school. she bought 1853 when the place at the same time. her family also moved up to the school property for protection and later in life emily became very close with frederick douglass and was a founding member of his community.
5:38 pm
emily's participation in the school and the fact that she was by her side shooting guns in the front lawn and her family moved on the property really could notes that it much correspondence with how she got here. i think it really demonstrates a herection and support for and how it had grown in the abolition movement. now how they has sort of infused into the school itself. or it started as her own project it was really not turning into something more. how was her school for colored girls different from the other schools that had already existed in washington dc which i mentioned a little bit earlier estimate this is how a historian describes it. her school went much further. thisolored girls enrolled
5:39 pm
is a better education than most white children. the quality of teaching and the range of subjects and the pervasive atmosphere of mutual affection and from and is between the staff and the people combined to make her such a model institution that and be as people objected. let's not forget how notable it was that the school was not just meant for african-americans and for girls and women only. her standards were unwaveringly high when she admitted herself that is what you describe. me to candidly in -- imy weakness would rather get off with these weaknesses of character that attends all classes. the students in high school
5:40 pm
ranged from eight years old to 17. in addition to a conventional subject she focused on teacher training and provided lectures on scientific and literary subjects fight leading citizens of washington dc. for example the reverend who is the minister of the church delivered a course of lectures on the origin of words. johnson gave a lecture on astronomy. ,he collected books, maps paintings, engravings simon's equipment that science equipment offer the school. in the end of the year the library contained about 500 volumes of books the school received 12 weekly and semiweekly newspapers and 26 monthly and semi monthly magazines. the library of congress which has her papers has a bunch of
5:41 pm
her students as well. there are a system by her themnts that show responding to questions she asked of them. they would write analytical essays and there are some drawings that i cap before you. because of the success of her growing school she began dedicating herself to the idea of building a proper school building. she had been using a proper wood frame and was looking for something that was designed specifically for it the purpose a a school rep. dent: just drafting think that was subject to fire. networking she was visiting members of congress and senators contacting reporters aboutking them to read the school and traveling to see potential donors and gathering donations. she wrote so many letters that
5:42 pm
others let them use their stamps so she would not have to pay for postage. she wrote to people all over the country. as you can imagine with all of these things that she is doing by 1855 and already naturally frail and ill she was on the verge of a breakdown. when taking a vacation was not good enough to cure her she took up one quarter of the school year and had others take off -- take over so she could spend time at the beach or cap. she writes that she is well again except for my brain which will not work more than three hours per day. is labor for six hours. this is unlike my former power. a few of my friends of the difference. nor does my school so i make my way successfully still. that was not quite true.
5:43 pm
her exhaustion continued. for the next three years from schooltil 1850 nine the was only open intermittently. it was mostly close. -- open it was operative by a woman from new york who was very interested in the cause of the school that had no teaching experience. drives ofome of the the school plans in case you want to look at some floor plans. even while she was resting on her illness and the school was declining she was still going on with her and for expansion. to build a school that could accommodate more students and sleeping accommodation for students and teachers. however her own attempts to raise money was unsuccessful. describesw one donor it. she really raise enough money to pay for travel.
5:44 pm
his seller was just enough pay for. totaling $6,000 was never paid. after a booklet was published that made the book as a haven for african-americans in washington a political storm arose that started with the trustees losing his job at the patent office. in 1857 for the purpose of raising money for the school created further backlash. in response to the meeting the mirror at the time wrote a letter published in a book -- ready article for the conservative newspaper objecting to the school saying it would attract free african-americans from the state. it would educate them the on their social condition that it would be a center for anti-slavery activity in the district and it may endanger the institution of slavery and the union itself.
5:45 pm
it is also possible that some of her fundraising troubles can come not from political difficulties in support of problems also with her own personality. she was known to be impatient, sensitive to slight and demanded perfection from everyone around her. also adding to the exhaustion and illness and political controversy as well as some of her own personal defects the viability of the school was written by a growing rift between the two factions that have been supporting it. the philadelphia community of quakers and the abolitionists. when she went north to recuperate her time gave the impression that they held real control over the school and tensions increase. she was unable to mediate between the two groups. cap looking at the issue even further was that the school and the land were held in trust by two prominent quakers. held inugh they were
5:46 pm
the name of the school and excluded the youth, she started to worry if there was a break between them she would be kicked out of the project. lawyers felt that incorporating separate entity was impossible because it would face major political opposition. she went around trying to convince her friends to take over as trustees. she was so desperate and her tactic that she burned more bridges. on may 13, 1860 8 a.m. esther set fire to the land she was using the she was the only one in and was able to put it out but that was a symbolic and to the school. the next fault the school opened under a new teacher and by spring it was lent to renters. in 1861 she packed up and moved to california.
5:47 pm
there is nothing in her personal letters that talks about or gives any kind of clue that she moved to california. all of a sudden she just did it. it seems dirty up her up. -- pretty abrupt. most of the books and publications that i read about except for one talk about because of illness and the civil war. i'm covering it a little bit more that is not quite what happened. in hindsight looking back it seems like something was sort of building. if you want to switch the slides. going up to the move she started reading publications and became a spiritualist. she embraced chronology. in correspondence to a
5:48 pm
spiritualist moving to california she compared notes of visions and visits with deceased friends. in california she started functioning as a medium calling herself a sympathetic clairvoyant practitioner. she advertised regularly and cut offwspapers and contact with friends from the east. in a letter to her brother she wrote things like the civil war was the necessary proving of purified the nation to prepare it for the millennium. in 1860 43 years after she moved to california she fell from a carriage on her way back to petaluma. she spent seven months in bed and eventually took a train back to washington still injured. 10 days after she returned she died. all of my dates say 1863 but she died in 1865.
5:49 pm
ofpite her death and the end the school or go and forming a african-american teaching school in the district survived and the things that she had built were actually the legacy for that. in 1863 congress passed a law incorporating her school as the institution for the education of colored youth. she moved toear california, a little bit later. and 1871 the school trustees which included johns hopkins sold the property for $40,000. overis a 40,000 increase the decade. this became a endowment for the trust fund which went on to fund major projects in the d.c. area including upper salt which was the only female dormitory for years. broke away to become part of the d.c. public school system and 1879 as the minor normal school which was
5:50 pm
established on the corner of 16th street where there is a church now. renamedthe school was the teachers college. in 1955 with the district of columbia teachers college. consolidatedt was with other schools to become the university of the district of columbia. so. the minor's teachers college was a principal school to teach african-american teachers for more than 70 years. in the 20th century the majority of children attended the public school were taught by graduates of the school. naturally her legacy is here. that is the end of my talk. if you guys have any questions i have happy to answer them. [applause]
5:51 pm
if you don't mind wait until you have a microphone. photographin the that is from 1900? >> any comments or thoughts? >> thank you very much for doing this research. of the teachers college is very powerful here. sure you are going to be able to find people who are educated to do that. to learne interesting if they knew any of this history. there isbviously material at the library of
5:52 pm
congress but it is not accessible. >> i feel like i just skimmed the surface, there is so much of it. aree is for rails and there about 800 pages of microfilm. there is so much to mine that it has not been hit in a public way. >> after the property burned what happened then? between then and now. >> i have not traced it. i suspect that they sold the property to sutherland and that is when they were subdivided and these lots were sold off. is the same architect is the other account, i think they bought it all. that is a good question that i still need to research. >> i have a question, you
5:53 pm
mentioned the principal in mississippi, what was his plan to end slavery. to raise moneyn and purchase slaves and free them and to teach them. for the money they were making teaching and to keep doing that over and over again. i think there were numbers in this whole scheme at the library of congress. she actually wrote very enthusiastically snoop some admonition -- to some abolitionists. >> do you know anything about the historians who i believe are from the 1940's who was researching this topic or how he came to it and where he acquired
5:54 pm
the paper? --he acquired the part papers from her family. he was a professor, most of the people that i can find who had research this order from new york. artifact from the 1920's she had been writing this topic and have been focusing on andeducation portion looking at the teaching schools that had cropped up to the north. without they were progressive institutions. focusing on the broader history. he was a historian from new york. >> i wondered if you could talk a little bit more about the rift between the quakers of
5:55 pm
pennsylvania and harriet beecher stowe, do they have different thoughts or a different philosophy? i did not quite get to the bottom of it. it seemed like a tension. thee was some talk about school ruffling feathers. hadink the quaker group given money and support and they wanted to be a college for a paid they were holding the land as a trust. i am not really sure, i did not dig deep enough into that. i know with the naming of the school was a big deal. >> i am dying to dig further into this. there are some questions like that. there other schools in washington dc that were focused on different levels of education
5:56 pm
? >> mainly they were elementary level schools. >> this was the most advanced school? >> the most events are most educated. >> were a idea than a question, it seems like a wonderful project to do some oral history with any of the students who may have come out of the minor school and then compared that with her life. no would be a wonderful documentary. perhaps the humanities council may be interested in funding such a project. >> getting there may be any potential archaeological remains at the school. i have thought about that before. this garden, we do
5:57 pm
not have a ton of information about it. i believe based on what we have seen it is on the outside of it, that it is sort of built up up the street and that is original. maybe if we dug down deep enough under there would be something. we have not talked about that before. , maybeon't know exactly someone does. i have not uncovered that. is that it? thank you so much for coming. [applause] have some more snacks.
5:58 pm
>> we have a facebook question from it or who says other of any historical resources on the people who died in detroit? >> or is one in particular, the detroit free press did a piece -- you could be featured in our joining the by conversation at facebook. also at twitter at c-span history. >> tonight on lectures in history colorado state picture isprofessor a class about the ludlow: minor strike and massacre in the early 20th century. here is a preview. >> on the morning of april 20 of 1914 there are questions about what happened but there is a exchange of gunfire.
5:59 pm
the people in the encampment try to get upgraded one of the individuals tried to go to the national guard and ask for them to hold the women and children. thes hit in the back of head with a rifle and shot and killed. he was on the train tracks for three days. other individuals will try to get out. one man also try to get up, he is shot. hisstory is he talked about family and wanted to make sure they were safe by the end of the day the national guard had been order to stop the fighting. they decided to go to the county and light of the fire. it burns everything down. program ate entire 8:00 p.m. eastern tonight. american history tv only on c-span3.
6:00 pm
war a authoril talks about his book justice at the appomattox. describes robert e. lee and ulysses s. grant leading to the surrender of the army of virginia in 18 55. the gettysburg heritage foundation hosted this talk that is just under one hour. that is great pleasure get to introduce ralph peters. for those of you unfamiliar with ralph he is a prize-winning best-selling author of a wide range of books from his civil war novels to strategic analysts. as a former enlisted man with extensive overseas experience he is currently a fox news analyst. analysis -- he has covered topics from africa to iraq. he has

17 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on